Garden party themes and how to choose one for your outdoor event

Get your garden party themes sorted with these clever insider tricks and alfresco hosting will be a cinch

table and chairs with dahlia print cloth and cushions
(Image credit: welovecushions.co.uk)

Coming up with the right garden party themes will give your special occasion the standout factor. You might already have a vague idea for your party you're toying with that needs fine tuning, or alternatively no idea at all about what to do for your backyard celebration. 

Either way, we're here to help. After all, throwing a garden party is the finest way to celebrate summer, and what could be better than getting together with friends in the garden to share delicious summer-inspired food, cool cocktails and the best conversation and laughs. 

We think it's all about going the extra mile for your garden party ideas to ensure it's an event to remember, and picking a fun theme is the best place to start. 

rustic table and chairs in natural setting

'Hosting sustainably is made possible with on-trend and eco friendly re-usable bamboo tableware, while pastel linens have a timeless appeal and can be used over and over,' says Meredithe Stuart Smith, creative director at MeriMeri.co.uk (opens in new tab) 

(Image credit: Meri Meri)

Choose the best garden party themes in 3 simple steps

Whether you're hosting a pool party or a backyard wedding, our expert advice on choosing the right garden party theme for your event will set you right on track for some cut above alfresco entertaining.

1. Go for an easily achievable theme

From hot tub party ideas to backyard movie nights, there's no shortage of themes for garden parties, but one thing is for sure: deciding on a theme from the get-go is advisable if you want things to run as smoothly as possible. 

'Choosing a theme for your garden party is a great way to get guests excited about your celebration and will show them they’re in for a good time as soon as they receive their invitation,' says Sarah Allsopp, creative manager at Party Delights (opens in new tab). 'Plus, this is the chance to inject some imagination and personality into your party.'

When you're thinking about the event you want to host just be sure it won't turn into a major production that becomes stressful rather than enjoyable. You can always be sure that a BBQ party will be a success, but maybe have a think about how you can reinvent yours with a twist. 

How about switching up a BBQ theme and going for a BBQ picnic party instead, suggests Light4Fun's (opens in new tab) Claire Bassett. 'For a quick and hassle-free approach arrange floor cushions and throws on a picnic blanket in the sunniest spot. Add net lights to garden foliage and wrap connectable string lights around nearby tree trunks. Choose solar powered garden lanterns to hang from branches, and floor level lanterns around the seating area for a subtle glow.'

Another way to change things up is by ditching burgers in baps. Instead experiment with international flavors to give your menu the edge, suggests Robert Hunningher, founder of Humdingers (opens in new tab). 'Think Korean Gochujang Chicken, sizzling lamb chops topped with sumac, and souvlaki skewers with a hint of cumin and drizzled lemon.'

bbq and candles on wooden deck in garden

(Image credit: Emma Lee/Future)

2. Make sure you have the basics covered

There are one or two must-haves, whatever garden party themes you might decide on, so be sure to include them in your garden party planning

'A gazebo is a fantastic addition to any garden party theme,' says Emily Caloe, senior buyer at VonHaus (opens in new tab). 'They're so versatile for keeping the party alive when the weather has different plans. They also keep guests away from the house, so the after-party clear-up is contained in one space.'

Firelight creates an intimate setting at night. 'If you're hosting guests in your garden in the evening, make sure the fire pit is lit before they arrive,' says Jonny Brierley CEO at Moda Furnishings (opens in new tab). 'This creates a wow factor as they step into the garden, and also helps them to relax quickly. The fire provides a visual comfort from which you and your guests will benefit.'

Never underestimate the transformative powers of your backyard party lighting ideas when it comes to enhancing your party theme either. 'Lighting your garden for an alfresco party is non-negotiable,' says designer Matthew Williamson. 'Candles on the table in long, elegant candle holders and little votives create layers and pockets of romantic light. Alternatively, use rechargeable lamps to line the table to create the feel of an outdoor room.'

evening party with people, lighting and awning

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

3. Choose accessories that match your garden party theme

Decorations are much easier to pull together once you have decided on a theme for your event. From balloons and bunting to tableware and teepees, keep everything matching so your garden party themes come together seamlessly in a co-ordinated way.

It's a good idea to include a statement piece such as a teepee, garden bar or drink station that works the look. 'A fantastic way to bring your party theme to life is with good food and a beautifully decorated buffet table,' says Sarah Allsopp, creative manager at Party Delights. 'Let your guests know summer has arrived by lining the buffet table with balloons, while also including themed tableware such as cups and plates, cocktail sticks, straws and cake toppers.'

So whether it's a decorated teepee as part of a festival party, flower wall ideas for a wedding party or tiki bar accessories for an Hawaiian-inspired special event, be sure to carry the ideas for your party themes right down to the small details.

garden table decorated for a summer party with pretty place settings

(Image credit: Simon Scarboro/Future)

The latest garden party themes everyone's talking about

Now you know how to choose a theme and get it to work for your event, you'll want the lowdown on the latest trends so you can throw an event to remember this summer. 

These are the garden party themes that should be on your radar this summer. 

Decadent floral theme

alfresco table with dahlia arrangment

(Image credit: Jacky Hobbs/Future)

You can never have enough flowers right? Well now really is the time to go for it with big overblown flowers.

‘The floral trend is big this summer,' says Rebecca Dudley, seasonal buyer from Lakeland (opens in new tab). 'There are plenty of ways you can inject a generous dose of flower-power into your garden party theme such as beautiful vase arrangements and flower-themed tableware.'

'For a decadent party theme, large scale florals are a must when creating your tablescape,' says Helen Ashmore, head of design at Laura Ashley (opens in new tab). 'Set the table with a fabric table cloth, and try using leftover wallpaper as a table runner to carry your theme across the table. It's a more sustainable and creative approach.'

The trend is to supersize your blooms wherever possible. 'Use a palette of bright fuchsia pink, bold oranges and sunshine yellows paired with oversized blousy florals to complete the look,' says party planner Liz Taylor of award-winning global luxury event management company the Taylor Lynn Corporation (opens in new tab)

'Table linens, napkins, outdoor rugs, swathes of brightly colored fabrics, streamers, lanterns, and paper garlands can all be used to layer up color and pattern. A backdrop of bright floral arrangements grouped by colour to create a graduated rainbow effect is a beautiful take on the theme.' 

Rustic charm party trend

courtyard styled in rustic look

The rustic trend from 'Gardens for the Soul 'by Sara Bird and Dan Duchars (Ryland, Peters & Small)

(Image credit: Dan Duchars/Ryland Peters & Small,)

'Rustic garden ideas are enjoying a real revival at the moment,' says stylist Sara Bird of The CONTENTed Nest (opens in new tab). 'Classic, timeless yet more importantly it looks effortless. Adding an ‘easy-living’ look with just a few accessories it suggests a time worn and gradually gathered appeal.  

'It looks great whatever the season and works really well for garden parties, with the subtle shades as a backdrop to color pops and patterns. Keep it up to date with modern rattan and raffia platters, baskets and furniture alongside favorite rumpled linens, worn woods and distressed accessories.’

Lakeland's Rebecca Dudley agrees: 'Styling is the important factor in this type of garden party theme. Table décor can take the form of a hessian runner brightened up with mismatched vintage crockery and glassware. Arrange this around centerpieces made from branches, and mix in texture with lace napkins or a selection of vases filled with wildflowers. As night-time falls light up the trees under a canopy of twinkling fairy lights.'

This look is very popular for wedding garden parties and makes for a stunning dinner party backdrop as well. Enjoy fine dining under the stars, then dance till dawn on a rustic wooden dance floor lit up by lanterns and tea lights.

Classic tea party theme

garden table set up for afternoon tea

(Image credit: Magdalena Bujak/Alamy Stock Photo)

Afternoon tea in summer is all about church fetes, cricket match spreads and national celebration days. It's one of the easiest themes to try too, so you won't get stressed when planning how to throw a garden tea party

'This is the quintessential English garden party theme,' says Sarah Allsopp of Party Delights. 'To create the perfect setting for your guests at a traditional afternoon tea stick to pretty pastels and floral patterns to bring a touch of vintage to your theme.

'Opt for a white backdrop and a vintage cake stand for an elegant and classic look. Add a floral garland or vase display to your table and china cups, if you have them, along with floral bunting and any other 'tea at the vicarage' décor that works.'

Mark Turner of welovecushions (opens in new tab) agrees it's a big trend this year: ‘Everyone loves the idea of a traditional garden party, with cakes, bunting, sponge cake and old fashioned lemonade. Our tip? Keep your theme on a dedicated color palette of pastels and add lots of florals, whether with accessories or using real flower displays as it will make co-ordinating the look so much easier.'

Mediterranean-inspired party vibe

colorful alfresco table setting with parasol

'To reflect the sunny fruits of the French Riviera, add some citrussy ceramics to freshen up your garden party and really achieve that summer soiree feel,' say the team at Oliver Bonus

(Image credit: Oliver Bonas)

The laidback vibe of Mediterranean garden ideas can be extended to your garden party theme to bring that feelgood sunny style to your outdoor space.

Lois Vincent, senior designer at Oliver Bonas (opens in new tab), likes to add ‘flamboyant maximalism’ to the Mediterranean mix. 'This summer is all about embracing maximalism for your garden, incorporating an array of bold prints and colors to achieve a fun and flamboyant alfresco evening inspired by the French Riviera.

'Focus on the finer details, you can begin to layer block colors with your tablecloths and napkins and then throw in some fun prints using vases, candle holders, and glassware. When things are looking bright and busy, you’re probably just about getting there. Have the confidence to keep going and play on this maximalist theme.'

London based interior designer Sophie Patterson (opens in new tab) often styles up a Mediterranean look: 'For a Mediterranean-style garden party I love to use big ceramic vases with oversized foliage and flower arrangements. It has such a big impact for an occasion.' 

It’s a great way to add color and impact to a terrace. 'Sometimes if I don’t have time to buy flowers I cut a few branches of foliage from the olive tree in my garden,' says Sophie. 'Greenery adds so much life to any space while giving that Mediterranean feel. You can also use fruit as decoration. Blue and white bowls filled with lemons looks very Mediterranean and afterwards you can use them for gin and tonics.'

Boho fiesta party theme

outdoor table with patterned accessories and lamp

Cordless rechargeable table lamp designed by Matthew Williamson at Pooky (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Pooky/Matthew Williamson)

Perched on top of a cliff in the coastal town of Deia in Mallorca, designer Matthew Williamson's (opens in new tab) four-bedroom Spanish home is about as idyllic as it gets. He knows a thing or two about how to create a boho fiesta look with an island vibe.

'With the alfresco dining season upon us, craft a beautiful tablescape with undulating layers and wonderfully bold colors and patterns. Setting the table is all about creating layers. Bring more color and pattern to your table with vibrant placemats and decadent ikat tablecloths. 

'Think about introducing layers and height for outdoor table decorating ideas. Long candles paired with charming candlesticks, beautiful votives and rechargeable lamps promise to bring variety and charm to any party table this season.'

Sarah Allsopp of Party Delights suggests a Mexican-themed party. 'Get a little bit spicy with a fiesta in your garden accessorised with plenty of cacti and natural straw hats. A Mexican-themed party would not be complete without a piñata. Bring your guests together, big and little, to host a piñata contest to win those sweet treats.'

Sarah Wilson
Sarah Wilson

Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Her first job on glossy magazines was at Elle, during which time a visit to the legendary La Colombe d'Or in St-Paul-de-Vence led to an interest in all things gardening. Later as lifestyle editor at Country Homes & Interiors magazine the real pull was the run of captivating country gardens that were featured. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design as well as a course in floristry she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.